Thursday, February 26, 2009

Commentary: Bands Are in the T-Shirt Business; How About Labels?

Gang of Four's Dave Allen said something at his Pampelmoose blog recently that really struck me - "the music industry is not hurting, it’s the cd business that is in decline."

Allen advocates for bands to not put a price on their product and sometimes give it away because fans "will never forget the experience they had and they will tell their friends that you are the coolest band on earth for doing that." Allen has added that bands are in the t-shirt business because the profit margins are greater. Allen adds:
I am not being facetious when I say that bands are in the T-shirt business as I believe very strongly that as music slips down to zero in dollar value then artists must move quickly to find different ways to make money from their art. [The 'value' of music is based more than ever these days in emotion and much less in dollars.]
While bands have to find new approaches to selling their merchandise, so do labels need to get more creative with how they release and distribute albums.

Polyvinyl's approach to Of Montreal's Skeletal Lamping last year intrigued me. Besides making the album available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download, the album was also available in other formats - a lantern, a button set, wall decals, tote bags, and t-shirts. With purchase of any one of these items, you also received a free download of the album.

After reading Allen's article, I forwarded it on to Shiloe, who had in fact already seen it. I saw them employ the name-your-price strategy at the Scatterbrain Jamboree last Saturday. While they experiment, so will we try out new means of connecting and engaging with our fans.

Most bands still need the services a label can provide, but labels will need more than just record sales to stay afloat. To stay relevant, labels need to stop seeing the CD as the business. For New and Used Records, the album - in whichever format - is not the product. The album is a promotional tool - it promotes our artists and their shows, and it promotes N&UR the brand. The CD business may be in decline, but we are putting our hands in a diverse array of projects to ensure that we are not part of that decline.

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I think you are absolutely right, the music business is not (and I think should not be) about the unit, be it cd, vinyl, or digital download. It's about loyalty, I think one has to look at consumers more as benefactors.